Sunday, January 31, 2010

Joey Logano Wins NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

The 7th running of the Toyota All-Star Showdown again gathered the best of the NASCAR touring series drivers from the east, west of the United States, Mexico and even from Canada (two-time and defending NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Champion Andrew Ranger). Held at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale short track, the All-Star Showdown has proven instrumental to allowing developing drivers wishing to build their racing resumes.

This year, the race also featured the appearance of touring series alumni Joey Logano and David Gilliland, two drivers who are now pursuing the glitzier competition of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series thanks to a prior victory in the Toyota All-Star showdown. Preparing to start his sophomore season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in just three weeks with the 2010 Daytona 500, the Irwindale, California event was Joey Logano's first nationally-significant introduction in 2007 winning the race at only 16 years of age. Logano and Gilliland's presence somewhat disturbs the race's true goal to highlight talent of the smaller NASCAR series. However, with only two drivers, the Toyota All-Star Showdown is nowhere near as saturated by top-level NASCAR ringers.

Confusing the construction of the Toyota All-Star Showdown, race debuts were also slated for European RACECAR series driver Billy Boucenna (will failed to qualify for the 225 lap feature) and NASCAR's Drive for Diversity latest driver Sergio Pena. A 16 year old high school junior from Winchester, Virginia Pena gained his ride through winning a competition with three of his teammates amongst the driver diversity program. Though the reason admitting the rookie driver into the race wasn't completely to the spirit of a so-called 'All-Star Showdown', Pena's performance in Friday qualifying quickly saw the teenager become a star within stars. Driving a #4 Chevrolet for Revolution Racing, Pena set a time that clinched the pole for the Saturday main event beating Joey Logano #25 Home Depot Toyota.

As the green flag dropped, it became clear that the cars starting in the front-row had all the stamina to win the race. Holding tight with the hotly-promoted phenom Logano, Sergio Pena rarely left more than a car length to the Toyota through the race's first 98-lap segment. While Joey Logano was able to hold off the debuting 16 year old, Pena determination on the inside of Logano finally paid off early through the race restart on lap 106.

Pena placed his Chevy out front leading his first 18 laps in a K&N Pro Series stock car. Logano, having been raced hard by the newcomer, would exploit Pena's only visible weakness coming on the multitude of restarts resulting from a total 15 caution periods in the 225-lap race. Surviving a lap 117 restart where the Home Depot Toyota aggressively hunted the #4 Chevrolet, Logano did break through on lap 134 placing Pena back behind him. While the two drivers would end up being only leaders of the race, Ryan Truex and defending All-Star race winner of 2009 Matt Kobyluck emerged past the midway point as additional competition.

With Sergio Pena never letting up on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, he once again gained the event's lead with his stock car on 178th lap, leading the field to the final 25 lap sprint to the end. Amongst this final 25 lap distance, which was extended by a red flag, Kobyluck and Logano charged Pena on the restart losing the led to Logano and second to Matt Kobyluck. After losing the positions on the race track, Sergio Pena regathered himself. He retook the 2nd place from Kobyluck and set sights on Joey Logano for what would be the ultimate underdog story of 2010. Bringing the good fight, Pena's efforts for victory could not overcome Logano and his Toyota in taking the 2010 Toyota All-Star Showdown.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

the fairest way to describe the match up would mirror the first Rocky movie. A recent unknown competitor, while ambitious and talented, receives the break only few athletes could even comprehend. Expected only to complete well considering the seasoned stars around him, Pena rises to the occasion proving to have not only the skills but the heart to triumph. Reminiscent to the ending of the film, the challenger loses the match with the veteran (though the veteran is 3 years older than Pena). However, Sergio Pena wins not only the fans in Irwindale and watching on television, but likely the headlines yet to be written for his future in NASCAR competition. Expect to hear more about Sergio Pena in the NASCAR's K&N Pro Series through 2010.

2010 Toyota All-Star Showdown Results

1. #25 Joey Logano
2. #4 Sergio Pena
3. #40 Matt Kobyluck
4. #98 Matt DiBenedetto
5. #77 Andrew Myers
6. #20 Eric Holmes
7. #17 David Mayhew
8. #71 Eddie MacDonald
9. #12 Paulie Harraka
10. #35 Steve Park

15. #19 Andrew Ranger
25. #2 Daryl Harr
26. #00 Ryan Truex
32. #50 Auggie Vidovich
37. #31 Sean Caisse
38. #89 David Gilliland

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Auto Racing Figures Fair Well in Business Week's 2010 Power Top 100 Athletes List

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Declaring the leading sports stars from 2009, the 2010 BusinessWeek Power 100 List ranks the most influential athletes not only on their earnings but on their commercial and marketing appeal.

Recently disgraced golf legend Tiger Woods received top place in the 2010 tabulations followed by NBA superstar LeBron James. However, it is noteworthy to spot the strong representation that the motorsports community holds on the 2010 charts. Overall, 8 figures in the auto racing world are recognized. Almost exclusive to NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Danica Patrick (who is well-documented to be running in NASCAR for 2010) is represented on her IndyCar efforts for 2010. Every driver within Hendrick Motorsports' NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have secured spots in the 2010 list with four-time consecutive champ Jimmie Johnson positioned highest in 21st. At age 53, Mark Martin's presence comes as one of the more veteran names in the top 100 list.

The following is the positions which race car drivers are being recognized by BusinessWeek:

21: Jimmie Johnson
28: Jeff Gordon
41: Mark Martin
45: Dale Earnhardt Jr
48: Tony Stewart
67: Carl Edwards
70: Kyle Busch
88: Danica Patrick

Day 2: Daytona 24 hour race preparations

Photo Credit: Grand-Am

The day before the Rolex 24-hour of Daytona is the final preparation to set up for a rain or shine competition on a challenging 3.56 mile road course. The Rolex Series field full of veteran, rookie, full-time and part-time drivers will receive a challenge which even their race machines may not be able to persevere.

Morning practice for the Rolex Series Daytona prototypes and GT cars consisted of a lighter presence on-track based on the fact that some of the front-running teams wanted to conserve their race cars for Saturday. Nonetheless, many teams those the 45 minute session as a time to fine tune their sports cars including the embattled #99 GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley.

The determined work of GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing crew member reignited the "Red Dragon" by replacing the rear end damage after a Thursday morning practice crash with Jimmie Johnson in the vehicle. Staying in the pits with the GAINSCO crew members until midnight, Johnson made every effort to acknowledge the hard work. "These guys are top notch and I am fortunate to drive here at GAINSCO and look forward to a good race" Jimmie Johnson said. Jimmy Vasser added "It was a great job by all of the guys on the GAINSCO team".

With the #99 Daytona prototype repaired, drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser were all able to get seat time in the "Red Dragon" clocking a 3rd fastest time in the practice session. Top speed in the morning belonged to a pair of Porsche powered Rileys led by the #59 Brumos car with an Action Express Racing #9 Daytona Prototype's lap just over 3/1oths of a second slower. A large contingent of the durable GT class cars made use of the morning weather including the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 which lead on speed ahead of the #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 squad car.

Splitting an uneventful final qualifying which required only 8 of the GT cars to take time, a fifth and last practice was the final preparation before the 24-hour race commences. The Daytona Prototypes were led by the #60 of Michael Shank Racing Riley ahead of the #10 SunTrust Dallara. While Ford power led the final practice, as they did in qualifying yesterday, the Chevy power in the GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing appears ready to challenge the blue oval pairing. In GT, another Chevrolet team also made a statement in the 5th practice. The Chevrolet Corvette C6.R of Godstone Ranch Motorsports achieved a time to led the session ahead of a Mazda RX-8 and BMW M6.

Throughout the final day, both Target/Chip Ganassi Daytona Prototypes sat quiet with a long distance ahead for the BMW-engined Rileys to survive. A 3-time winner of the Rolex 24-hour of Daytona, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has their #02 car starting in 4th place, one place ahead of the #01 teammate.

The 52nd running for one of the earliest sports car races, the 2010 race is the 47th time that the event will run a full day's distance at Daytona International Speedway which has seen past entrants log more than 4,000 kilometers (roughly 2,485 miles). The field for the 2010 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona will take the green flag at 3:30PM Saturday with the SunTrust Dallara Ford Daytona prototype leading a field of 45 cars through a one-day journey. Spoiling the warm weather and sunshine that beamed on the improvised road course within the famous speedway, weather forecast in the Daytona Beach area calls for lingering rain showering as well as the possibility of thunderstorms through Saturday. As for Sunday, it is predicted that the sun will greet the survivors after enduring what will be a guaranteed harsh night to competitors whether their jobs are in the car or in pit lane.

As the ears of sports car fans absorb the majestic sounds of mechanical creations running at the edge of their limits, it will not be until after 3:30PM on Sunday that the engines around Daytona International Speedway will fall to silence again.

IndyCar: Vision Racing Loses Sight of 2010 Season

Photo Credit: Shawn Payne

In a letter to fans on their website, Vision Racing expresses "..Profound regret and heavy hearts.." as the team fell due to lack of sponsorship for the upcoming 2010. The shuttering of Vision Racing leads to a further fall from grace of Tony George, a man who started and ended the 13 year old conflict resulting in two open wheel series vying for acceptance in North America. The closure of the team also risks removing George's stepson and driver Ed Carpenter from the series' full-time roster for the first time since 2003.

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney

Founded on the assets of Kelly Racing, the Tony George-owned IndyCar team never found victory lane in his own series. However, 2009 saw Vision Racing drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay score a 2nd place finish on season opening street course round in St Petersburg. Long time team driver Ed Carpenter was able to match the team's best finish at Kentucky, a career-best run for the 6 seasons in competition.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 1: Thursday Practice and Qualifying for Rolex 24-hour at Daytona

The 2010 edition of the Rolex 24-hour of Daytona is a go. As near freezing temperatures and icy rain plagued the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car teams through Daytona testing earlier this month, the first day weather for practicing for this weekend's 24 hour race was a polar opposite (pardon the pun; particularly to my fellow Canadians in Ontario enduring a late January cold snap).

The First practice for the Rolex Series, occurring in the late morning under a Florida sun saw the #6 Daytona Prototype of Michael Shank Racing outrunning the SunTrust #10. With Ford engines powering those two leading entries, a Porsche powerplant allowed the #59 Brumos Racing car to achieve a 3rd fastest time. One of the drivers of the #59 will be sports car legend Hurley Haywood who has pledged this to be has final 24-hour of Daytona event. Running nine seconds slower than the Daytona Prototype leaders, both Mazda RX-8 GT cars sandwiched the Porsche GT3 campaigned by TRG/ Flying Lizard Motorsports.

Besides the speeds, the first practice was spotlighted by the day's misfortune of 2009 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype champion team GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing. After regular sports car driver Alex Gurney performed the first shake-down laps for the Chevrolet-powered Riley chassis, the #99 car (nicknamed Red Dragon) was turned over to reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. Having placed some laps, Johnson misjudged a slower GT class car on an infield portion of the Daytona road course. Passing the GT car, the #99 spun out and slid back into a safety barrier.

While the team posted a time fast enough for 4th overall in the session, the rest of the Thursday had the GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing Riley sidelined until a replacement rear bulkhead could be frown from Charlotte to Daytona. For sports car fans who might be under the impression that a NASCAR guy like Jimmie Johnson is merely running some sort of 'cameo appearance' in the Rolex Sports Car Series, he committed the resource of his airplane to have the replacement parts as well as an installation jig sent to the speedway Thursday evening. Planning a long night of at least five hours of work, the crew of #99 GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing will have their Riley Chevy back in competition on Friday.

The Rolex Sport Car Series GT and Daytona Prototypes, less the entry of GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing, were unleashed for the first round of qualifying amidst a bright, 70 degree farhenheit afternoon. Setting the top 20 grid position for each class, the pressure in of qualifying is enhanced by the tight 15 minute per class sessions.

At the end, the #10 SunTrust Racing Dallara Ford swept to the pole position. This car, driven by the collective racing talents Max Angelelli, Wayne and Ricky Taylor as well as former F1 driver Pedro Lamy, has shown consistent speed through all of 2010 at Daytona. The SunTrust Dallara Ford outran the Crown Royal sponsored #60 car of Michael Shank Racing by almost half a second. The rest of the top five features the second Michael Shank Racing vehicle in 3rd followed by the two Chip Ganassi Racing BMW-engined Rileys, the #02 car preceding the #01.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Media

The GT Class featured a domination of the Mazda RX-8 in qualifying for the 2010 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona. Led by the #69 car for the SpeedSource team, the Racers Edge Motorsports car divided the SpeedSource's team #70 Mazda from the GT pole-sitting teammate. The Godstone Ranch Motorsport/ Team MBR entry, an all-new Chevrolet Corvette C6R GT is built by the same Pratt & Miller organization behind the Chevrolet-factory's American Le Mans Series car. Fifth place in time is the world-class TRG Porsche GT3 car, 2009 GT Class winning team of the Rolex 24-hour race.

3 Daytona Prototypes and 2 GT cars have not posted times in through the Thursday qualifying. Qualifying on Friday will finalize the 2010 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Media

In the 3rd and final practice after qualifying, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team topped the top chart with the superstar #02 team of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Jamie McMurray and Juan Montoya ran faster than the Michael Shank Racing #6 car. Unable to run a lap in Thursday qualifying due to damage caused by a tangle with a GT car in the 2nd round practice, the #95 Crown Royal/ NPN Racing car presented themselves in a strong 6th place position. SpeedSource again led the GT class in speed. Followed by the Porsche of TRG/ Flying Lizard Motorsports, the 3rd fastest spot went to an emerging #32 BMW M6.

For Friday, final round qualifying and two more practice sessions will be the prelude to the 2010 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona.

Just Released: Danica Patrick's 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Schedule

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Danica Patrick's first stock car racing exposure will consist of at least 11 events in 2010 for the sponsored #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. All of these races come timed on weekends that will not contend with Patrick's full-time duties driving for her Andretti Autosport #7 car in the IZod IndyCar Series. Between the February 27th race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Patrick will not return to the JR Motorsports team until New Hampshire of end June.

The most shocking race to be on Patrick's NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule in 2010 is the addition of the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. This race is included on the grounds that Patrick will receive favourable clearance by NASCAR after her run in the ARCA event on January 6th. Initially, JR Motorsports had stated that the team would not enter her in the high-profile, 300-mile restrictor plate race.

Danica Patrick's 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series Schedule

1: Feb 13- Daytona International Speedway (
2: Feb 20- Auto Club Speedway
3: Feb 27- Las Vegas Motor Speedway
4: Jun 26- New Hampshire Motor Speedway
5: Jul 9- Chicagoland Speedway
6: Aug 14- Michigan International Speedway
7: Sep 25 Dover International Speedway
8: Oct 9- Auto Club Speedway
9: Oct 23- Gateway International Raceway
10: Nov 6- Texas Motor Speedway
11: Nov 13- Phoenix International Speedway
12: Nov 20- Homestead-Miami Speedway

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Confirmed: Jose Maria Lopez Becomes 2010 US F1 Driver

A long-waited announcement finally named Jose Maria Lopez as the team's first driver. "Securing 'Pechito' Lopez for our debut season has been a goal of ours for a long time," Peter Windsor commented saying that Lopez's career was followed since his success in the Renault V6 championship.

In Argentina, team principal Peter Windsor and the new Formula 1 driver held their official press conference in Buenos Aires' Government House. With government sports funding mentioned as being a part of Lopez's ride with the Formula 1team, the Argentina president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was on hand to express support for what she mentioned as "...this exciting new project...". Understandably, Lopez's funding has been marked with some displeasure from individuals questioning the use of government money for motorsport sponsorship. In reality, this is no different than the support received for national Olympic teams or when planners for sport facilities ask for several hundred millions to build stadiums.

Being the last team to officially declare their first of two drivers for 2010, US F1 has yet to indicate who will be the second F1 pilot. "You can nail every step along the way but if you don't have the right guys in the seats, everything else is for naught" were the words of co-team principal Ken Anderson as he strongly believes Jose Maria Lopez was the step in the right direction.

To the credit of the US F1 team, they certainly know how to build suspense as they prepare for their 2010 debut year in Formula 1.

Mercedes GP debuts Their Team F1 Car

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Guaranteed to be Formula 1's most watched team with being built from the foundation of last year's F1 Constructor Champion, Mercedes GP has been catching major headlines through luring 7-time World Driving Champion Michael Schumacher from retirement. At a January 25th event inside the Mercedes-Benz Museum located in Stuttgart, Germany the Mercedes GP team introduced a vehicle which they intend to honour the automotive history within the building's walls.

The first Formula 1 team to unveil their competition car for the 2010 grand prix season, Mercedes GP team drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg joined a Silver Arrow-inspired Petronas-sponsored MGP-W01 race machine. In front of a crowd of selected 600 guests consisting of 200 media members and 200 Mercedes-Benz Employees, driver Nico Rosberg brought light to the atmosphere stating "You can really feel the successful motorsport history of Mercedes-Benz here at the Museum in Stuttgart and to be part of the new Silver Arrows team and that racing heritage makes me feel extremely proud and motivated." Mercedes GP team principal and minority team owner Ross Brawn was also taken aback by the event. "With your first look around the Museum, you realise the fantastic racing heritage of Mercedes-Benz and we hope to be able to contribute to those successes going forward." This time last year Brawn, having bought the assets of the former Honda F1 team, showed off his one and only Brawn GP entry in much less fanfare.

Racing legend Michael Schumacher, looking forward to his first year of Formula 1 competition since 2006, sums up his motivation for driving a race vehicle with the famous tri-star badge. "I am convinced that MERCEDES GP PETRONAS will be in a very good position to fight for the championships this season and I will definitely give it a go. Driving for Mercedes-Benz again is like the closing of a circle for me as I started my racing driver career with the three-pointed star on my helmet. This is another reason why I cannot wait for the competition to get underway.”

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Following a previous article, I must apologize that I might have misled readers to believe that the Mercedes GP team were going to introduce their car in Valencia, Spain. In truth, the Mercedes GP car will be tested for the first time.

Involved in Formula 1 since 1993, The German car company maintained largely an engine supply role. Mercedes-Benz did acquire a 40 percent stake in McLaren, an ownership sum that will be sold back to the team for 2011. In the 2010 Formula 1 season Mercedes-Benz makes a return as an engine and chassis combination after a 55-year absence.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Formula 1 One 2010: The Final Pieces

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

With under 46 days remaining before the start lights illuminate for the Bahrain Grand Prix, some Formula 1 teams are more prepared for the start of the 2010 season than others. Two veteran F1 teams with full driver lineups for the upcoming season (Ferrari and McLaren), are set to take the wraps off new cars later this week in press unveilings.

BMW Sauber, having named Pedro De La Rosa to join Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi this past week, are due to introduce their competition vehicle next Sunday. As BMW sold their stake of the team back to original owner Peter Sauber, expect the German auto company's name to be stricken from the team's banner as the 2010 cars are planned to run customer Ferrari engines. Sauber's ceremony will take place in Valencia, Spain in coexistence with the Renault F1 team without the lavish displays once the norm for Formula 1 car unveilings. Renault F1 continues to possess one of the few vacancies left for the established Formula 1 teams alongside Robert Kubica, ironically the former driver of the BMW Sauber team. Two more teams, Williams F1 and the high-profile Mercedes GP, are slated to show off their race cars one day after in the same Spanish locale. Red Bull Racing, Force India and Lotus are scheduled to show their team colours later in the month of February.

The US F1 Team, a 2010 Formula 1 start up once questioned for whether they'll even have a car ready for the March Bahrain debut, has publicized the headway they've been making through the past month. This week, one of the biggest announcements for the American Formula 1 team is set, some media outlets jumping to name the US F1 Team's first driver ahead of an impending announcement planned for Monday January 25th. Argentinian Jose Maria Lopez, a driver who has been associated with the US F1 Team since early December, is likely to be tabbed as the freshman F1 organization's first driver hiring in a press conference in his South American homeland. Lopez credentials include two seasons of GP2 and a test role with the Renault F1 team in 2006.

2010 Formula 1 Grid (As of January 25th)

McLaren F1
1. Jenson Button
2. Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes GP
3. Michael Schumacher
4. Nico Rosberg

Red Bull Racing
5. Sebestian Vettal
6. Mark Webber

7. Felipe Massa
8. Fernando Alonso

9. Rubens Barrichello
10. Nico Hulkenberg

Renault F1
11. Robert Kubica
12. TBD

Force India
13. Adrian Sutil
14. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Toro Rosso
15. Sebestian Buemi
16. Jaime Alguersuari

17. Jarno Trulli
18. Heikki Kovalainen

Campos Meta
19. Bruno Senna
20. TRD

Virgin Racing
21. Timo Glock
22. Lucas di Grassi

US F1 Team
23. *Jose Maria Lopez* (Pending January 25th Announcement)
24. TRD

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grand Am Rolex Sports Car: Entry List for 2010 24 Hour of Daytona

By this time next week, the 2010 edition of the 24 Hour of Daytona will challenge the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors and vehicles. The January 30th event will start at 3PM Eastern time on the road course of Daytona International Speedway with sports car racing regulars as well as the guest appearances of drivers from other walks of motorsports. For 2010, Jimmie Johnson, AJ Allendinger and Scott Dixon are just a few names slated to compete in what is the first major North American auto race of the season. With qualifying set for Thursday and Friday, the following are the cars and teams you'll be able to expect for the 24 hour race. The two lists below are for the Daytona Prototype and GT Class.

Please click on the list and let me know if they are not readable.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Toro Rosso F1 Team Names Alguersuari to Complete 2010 Driver Line-up

With a month and a half remaining before the 2010 Formula 1 season, Scuderia Toro Rosso chose to retain the driver lineup they ended in the 2009 F1 tour. On Friday, Toro Rosso announced resigning the 2008 F3 Champion Jaime Alguersuari to the second Ferrari-powered entry for the Faenza, Italy-based F1 team. Joining Sebestian Buemi, Alguersuari driving duties for the Toro Rosso race team started at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July 2009 when multiple time Champ car champion Sebestian Bourdais stepped away from the organization. In 8 races, Jaime Alguersuari's best finish has been a 14th place at the Brazian Grand Prix in one of only 3 races he was able to complete in the Toro Rosso-Ferrari for the 2009 Formula 1 season.

The Scuderia Toro Rosso team ended last season poorly, scoring only 8 points in the entire 2009 Formula 1 placing the Red Bull-owned team in last position for the F1 constructor championship. In the previous year, Sebestian Vettal (promoted to the Red Bull Racing team in 2009) captured a surprise checkered flag at the Italian Grand Prix on the high-speed Monza curcuit leading to the Toro Rosso team's best F1 year since their debut in 2006. As the team takes the grid for 2010, ScuderiaToro Rosso will hope that either Alguersuari or Buemi will find the right stuff to allow the team to taste the champagne of victory again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NASCAR Issues Rule Changes for 2010 Sprint Cup Series

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Emphasized as a 'back to basics' approach, the NASCAR press conference confirmed some of the growing rumours which had been surfacing the past week in auto racing media.

The headlining announcement regarded a monumental rule change to the Car of Tomorrow-style Sprint Cup stock car. In the 2010 season, the older-style rear spoiler will replace the symbolic wing which had adorned the truck lid since the vehicle debuted part-time in 2007. While the rear wing is remaining in place for the Daytona 500 as well as for many of the first races of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, some speculation had pointed at the short track of Bristol Motor Speedway being the launch pad for the reintroduction of the spoiler. However, NASCAR indirectly dispelled that rumour since a test date for the rear spoiler is set three days after the Bristol race on March 23 and 24th at Charlotte. "Over the last couple of years, there have been dozens of changes to this car, with this being the most visible change," said NASCAR's Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton. While Pemberton acknowledges the COT was a work in progress even after two seasons of full season competition, this recent change goes against the grain of the leadership of NASCAR which had remained stubborn to making adjustments to the new Sprint Cup vehicle. In fact NASCAR Chairman Brian France, in a November 2008 interview, had once commended their stance than saying "..we got a lot of pressure back in May to make changes on the Car of Tomorrow because it wasn't driving as well as it could and all those things. And we're very pleased that we didn't cave to that pressure..". Concerned with adding additional cost to the Sprint Cup teams in adapting their race vehicles to new rules, NASCAR's more recent intervention into improving the competition on-track has likely caused the sanctioning body to reexamine the criticized Car of Tomorrow.

Another rule change dealing with the mechanical aspect of the Sprint Cup cars see a larger restrictor plate between the carburetor and intake manifold of the engines at Daytona and Talladega. Propping up horsepower, this move is also going to allow drivers to gain throttle response which translates to better acceleration control by drivers.

In the final issues of NASCAR's press conference about the Sprint Cup series of 2010, the division will no longer institute special driving rules at the restrictor plate races starting with the season premiere Daytona 500. For Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR had for years set measures meant to tone-down aggressive bump-drafting and passes made in potentially risky areas of the race track. For many years, the yellow lane running along the lower part of the speedway of those two ovals were also considered the "Out-of-bounds Line" or "No Passing Zone" by NASCAR. Aimed to prevent cars from racing and potentially losing control on flat, slippery parts of race tracks, cars passing another competitor below that line were subjected to penalties.

One of the most popular incidents relating to this line occurred in the fall Talladega race of 2008 where Regan Smith ran his vehicle just under the line to pass Tony Stewart before the start/finish line. Smith was penalized in the end results falling to 18th place for the pass deemed illegal by NASCAR Sprint Cup officials. Smith protested his penalty after the race saying that he was forced down because of Stewart cutting off the legal race line. Whether Stewart had forced Smith below the yellow line, leaders of restrictor plate races often used the yellow line rule out of the spirit of the initiate in protecting their position. In the spring race at Talladega this past season, the yellow lane rule actually demonstrated itself as a liability when Carl Edwards protected the bottom of the legal racing zone. Brad Keselowski, running second and full of momentum thanks to a push from Earnhardt Jr, chose to go through the #99 Ford Fusion. The result was a dangerous crash which saw Edward's go airborne and crash down the front stretch. Catching some other cars including Ryan Newman, a NASCAR spectator also required medical attention cause of flying debris. This incident repeated again at the July race at Daytona as Kyle Busch led to the checkered flag before receiving a punt from the #14 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart. Stewart came out the victor while Busch received a rough ride and a hard shot from the #9 Dodge of Kasey Kahne. In effect, the No Passing Zone had created accidents.

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

More recent and even less popular driving rules had NASCAR policing where bump-drafting could take place on the racetrack. Acknowledging NASCAR as a contact sport, Chairman Brian France removed the no passing zones and no bump-drafting zones from being concerns for the drivers. Regaining full movement on the track, drivers new freedom comes with responsibility racing with some common sense. NASCAR Sprint Cup officials will wisely remind every competitor that while some restrictor plate racing rules have been relaxed, racing at 200 miles per hour is no reason for drivers to relax their responsibility to themselves and 42 other drivers.

As the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season nears, fans can almost hear the push rod-driven V8 engines circulating the 2.5 mile of Daytona International Speedway promising to be the first of 36 unique races. NASCAR's new rules could become a game changer to conventional wisdom which had guided us through 2009 Sprint Cup season.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Naughty and Nice: 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series

Image trademark of NASCAR/Used with Media Permission

XSL Speed Reporter continues its wrap up of the 2009 season with the NASCAR Nationwide Series. There are not many naughty moments in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series. However, I have highlighted concerns for some alarming trends which, not new to the Sprint Cup feeder series, has altered the complexion of the series into a Cup Lite tour.

Nice: Kyle Busch takes his first NASCAR Championship- Being a prolific driver in the victory lane of NASCAR's major divisions, Kyle Busch has at last captured a championship crown. Winning the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship, Busch outpaced the field for 9 victories and 30 top-10 finishes in 35 races. Second place Carl Edwards and the rest of the full-time Nationwide contenders had little chance of catching the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Continuing to throw his usual post race temper tantrums when race results would not work in his favour, some fans may question whether he has matured to a championship attitude. However, that same argument could have also been made towards Tony Stewart when he won the 2002 Winston Cup championship.

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Nice: Mike Bliss dances in the rain at Charlotte race- Within one month of Brad Keselowski bringing a James Finch-owned Chevrolet to victory at the Talladega Sprint Cup race, Finch's Phoenix Racing captured the 300 mile race at Lowes Motor Speedway (now renamed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway) on the NASCAR Nationwide series.

During what would be the final pit stop cycle in the race, many of the leaders have entered pit road for service, relinquishing their position on the track. It was also this time when a rain shower was expected to fall on the speedway. Mike Bliss as well as Brendan Gaughan, wheeling a Rusty Wallace-owned Chevrolet, chanced the weather would affect the race as their fuel tanks ran to vapour. The plan was well-played as caution soon slowed the field. By lap 170, the race was called as Bliss' and Gaughan's Chevrolets took the top 2 positions. Being Bliss' first victory in almost 5 years, it was the first win for Finch's Phoenix Racing team since 2003 when the team was in an alliance with Chip Ganassi fielding Jamie McMurray part time.

Though Mike Bliss and the Phoenix Racing organization celebrated in the rain a Charlotte Motor Speedway, the pairing deteriorated heading into Waltkins Glen. With Bliss attempting to preserve his top five place in the Nationwide Series points, the driver jumped into several rides to finish off the year eventually returning to Phoenix Racing for the final race at Homestead. Mike Bliss finished 16th in the race but most important reclaimed a 5th place in NASCAR Nationwide Series points.

Naughty: Field-filling entries- Field Fillers, Start and Park, the terminology of the tactic may be unsettled but the practice refers to cars which are focused in a time when NASCAR races are comprised of fewer full-time cars than the 43 starting position. Field Filler cars and teams focus on the shorter entry lists, qualify their cars for the intention to run just a few laps of the race before parking the vehicle, collecting last place money. These teams are not even equipped to run the full distance of a Nationwide series event, consisting of only a few volunteer crew members. The lack of a salaried staff and other race equipment allows the team owner to make money. While this tactic has been argued as a way for these teams to gain resources, this development has yet to be proven in any form of NASCAR.

Nice: Brad Keselowski and JR Motorsports- Only two seasons prior to 2009, Brad Keselowski was sitting on the sidelines as sponsorship for his family-owned NASCAR truck team dried-up leaving him a free agent driver without a major NASCAR win to add glimmer to his racing resume. In 2007, Keselowski's fortunes changed when he subbed for a suspended Ted Musgrave in a NASCAR Craftsmen Truck Series race. A front-runner for much of that event, the drive of Keselowski attracted the attention of Dale Earnhardt Jr who had spent two seasons playing musical chairs with several drivers in the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. The Matching paid off in 2008 as Brad Keselowski took the #88 JR Motorsports vehicle to victory for the summer race at Nashville Superspeedway.

2009 started badly for Keselowski and the JR Motorsports team when a series of poor results. In fact, it took 6 races before the team's first top 10 of the year. Some observers questioning whether Keselowski has a lasting future in NASCAR. However, Brad Keselowski's surprise victory at the Sprint Cup in Talladega appeared to have a spin-off effect for his full-time Nationwide series program. In the late May race at Dover winning the event through a daring pass on Logano and Kyle Busch in the final run to the checkered flag. Keselowski and JR Motorsports together won three more races in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series which also allowed the driver to elevate himself to a 3rd place position in the final year-long standings.

We know already that Brad Keselowski stint at JR Motorsports has ended with 25 year old driver taking a exciting new opportunity in the Sprint Cup series for Penske Racing. Kelly Bires becomes the new wheelman for the #88 Chevrolet into 2010.

Naughty: Keselowski causes calamity in final races of 2009- Brad Keselowski dished out as much more than he had received in through the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide series. In the round at Memphis Motorsport Park, Keselowski aggression was showcased as he fought against Kyle Busch, Mike Bliss and Carl Edwards in heated combat. The final three cautions of that race involved the #88 Chevrolet which went on the victory. Part of Brad Keselowski's aggressive driving on that day could also be attributed to his eligibility for a $50,000 award Dash 4 Cash challenge which he clinched be the Memphis win. Despite coming on the wrong side of some rough and tumble driving, Keselowski's competitors respected the actions of the victor as classic short track racing.

The Able Body Labor 200 at Phoenix International Raceway was an exception, at least in the mind of Denny Hamlin. On lap 157, Brad Keselowski and the race's pole sitter Denny Hamlin were involved in a high-speed turf war which started when Hamlin nosed his Toyota into the rear of Keselowski's Chevy. The rough driving escalated when Keselowski struck back, spinning out the #20 Toyota.

Photo Credit: John Sommers II/Getty Images

Naughty and Nice: Hamlin settles score with Keselowski at Homestead- Immediately after getting wrecked by Brad Keselowski at Pheonix, Denny Hamlin provided a memorable late year sound bite on the ESPN coverage of the Able Body Labor 200 pledging revenge against the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "There's a lot of guys that have a lot of chips that they're going to cash in, I'm just going to be the first to the pay window."

At the Ford 300 on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval, Hamlin followed up on his threat, spinning the #88 JR Motorsport after just 34 laps. Clearly reminding Keselowski, NASCAR officials were also prompted by the incident. NASCAR Nationwide officials penalized the Hamlin-driven Toyota a lap but the driver was able to recover to 5th place at the end of the event. After the race, as Brad Keselowski was confronted with a choice to retaliate, Keselowski simply stated "I don't hold any grudges, and I'm ready to move on,"

Nice: One more rain dance in Montreal- Depending who you talk to, the opinions for racing stock cars on road races span from accepting it as an unique NASCAR experience or an abomination to pure stock car auto racing. With oval racing purests having their way between the 2002-2004 seasons, the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been putting on some outstandingly original shows on the road courses.

The 2009 NAPA Auto Parts 200 had the pedigree of a wild 2008 race which involved the first NASCAR race ever raced in the rain. This year's race would stack up as a collision-ridden continuance amidst another wet run on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. With competitors sharing more competitive combat than a Toronto Maple Leaf versus the Ottawa Senators hockey game, the track provided the best example of the classic NASCAR idiom 'rubbing is racing'.

At the end Marcus Ambrose, a driver who has been in prime shape to win the previous two Montreal events, looked poised to finally capture a deserved victory. However a rare mistake, involving Ambrose awkwardly jumping a curb, caused the race leading Toyota to lose significant speed in the final two turns allowing the Ford of Carl Edwards to thunder by for the checkered flag.

Andrew Ranger (who left 2009 by securing his second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series championship) turned a one-race deal into a dazzling audition for greater success amongst the top-3 NASCAR touring races, finishing 3rd place behind a Nationwide series champion and NASCAR's finest full-time road racing contender. Jacques Villeneuve also pulled off a memorable finish with a 4th place, his best finish on his home race track since a second place in the 1996 Canadian Grand Prix

Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images

Naughty: Scheduling the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal on the same weekend as the Grand Prix of Mosport- Leaving Canadian auto racing fans in a real dilemma, the exciting new NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was placed on the same weekend as one of the oldest running sports car races in the country.

Brace yourself this year, 2010 schedules will again cause a conflict in the late August plans for Canadian motorsport enthuiasts.

Nice: Kevin Harvick Inc team places their owner in victory lane- Winning the 2001 championship when the Nationwide series was known as the Busch Series, Kevin Harvick's success in the tour was earned winning the cars of his Sprint Cup series car owner Richard Childress. Following the 2007 season, Harvick made a personal decision to commit to running only a Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet.

Having gone winless in 2008 driving the selected NASCAR Nationwide series schedule, Kevin Harvick was finally able to claim victory in his own car by winning at Bristol on March 21st. Harvick would also win later in the season at Atlanta with his team.

Naughty: The regular impact of NASCAR Sprint Cup series drivers and teams in the Nationwide series- Though Cup regulars double-dipping in the lower series of NASCAR have been a common occurrence even during the infancy of the sanctioning body, the past decade has involved far more incursions by the Sprint Cup series drivers. With the start of the 2009 season at the Camping World 300 race on the Daytona International Speedway, 9 of the top-10 drivers were NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars. As 2009 ended, Mike Bliss and Brad Keselowski (who drove most of the Sprint Cup schedule) counted for a collective 5 wins at Nationwide Series regulars not running the full Cup calendar.

Besides the hunger by drivers like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards to race more than once a week, the main reason for Cup drivers' presence in the series is related to sponsor money. With companies striding to make every advertisement dollar count, they want top value and the prestige of being behind a winning name, not a rookie and development driver's name. Cup teams operating Nationwide teams have been growing more dominate with every win in 2009 coming for a team with Cup affiliation.

What this has done to the NASCAR Nationwide Series has consolidated the major sponsors to Nationwide series entities of Cup teams and brought down many of the hopes of independent teams during this recent era.

Nice: Logano logs in for the Long Haul- While the 18 year old's NASCAR Sprint Cup series entrance in the Joe Gibbs Racing #20 Toyota was admitted by many as premature, the second season of competition of Joey Logano in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series has provided some serious physical evidence to his stock car racing promise. In 2009, Joey Logano captured 5 victories all on tracks larger than 1.3 miles. Benefiting from the powerhouse organization of Toyota, Logano's true driving abilities came within in team rivalries on the track. Furious combat with teammate Kyle Busch in identically-prepared Toyota Camrys showed some of the best on-track battles of the 2009 Nationwide series.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More NASCAR on ESPN for 2010: 90% of Chase Races to be Aired on Cable Network

Photo Credit: Ford Media

In a press release made available on Wednesday, America's largest cable sports provider ESPN announced that their network will broadcast 9 of the 10 races in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup's Chase for the Cup Championship. With the 10-race Chase for the Cup airing entirely on ABC through the past 3 seasons, the over-the-air channel will only show the October 16th night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Last year’s performance showed us that ESPN provides the best home for NASCAR,” ESPN's executive vice president of content John Skipper said regarding the increased Sprint Cup coverage on the sports channel. Only 3 NASCAR Sprint Cup races will be televised on the ABC channels for 2010.

Back in 2000, NASCAR took the direct role in negotiating the season long coverage of the three major series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series) in an effort to not only net a bigger money deal but to gain broadcasting partners committed to expanding the exposure of professional stock car racing. In the inaugural season of the initial NASCAR TV deal involving FOX and NBC stations in 2001, 9 of regular 36 races were shown on cable channels while the rest aired on over-the-air networks. With only one event per week in their major division, this exposure on wide network television was important as NASCAR was continuing to push growth of the sport's brand. After the 2006 season, NBC decided not to renew their contract with NASCAR (though cable relative TNT did resign) allowing an ABC/ESPN deal to be formulated. Though ABC and ESPN had been pivotal in the past with fostering the once more humbler NASCAR series to a national audience, the loyalty of the networks to NASCAR since their return is not equal to Fox or even TNT.

In fact, it seems ABC's commitment for sports coverage appears to be dwindling. Moving ABC's long-established Monday Night Football to ESPN in 2006, this has been the most transparent to the media company's choice to empathize sports on their specialty channel. For NASCAR, the likeliest reason for this move from over the air to cable television is money more than viewership. ESPN benefits from a much higher pay per carriage fee from cable and satellite companies in the US which makes it more profitable to air increasingly more expensive sporting events when TV ad revenue takes a dive.

Because of the 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase races shifting to ESPN, there will be more live races airing on cable channel than on major networks for the first time since NASCAR began brokering the TV packages. “This is exciting news for NASCAR and our fans,” NASCAR's Media Group President Paul Brooks assures the observers of the stock car racing series. However, is it quite a disenchanting event when 20 races on cable for 2010 appears to be regressing NASCAR. A stumble in at race attendance and slightly lower TV ratings in later years of the Sprint Cup have led the sanctioning body to rethink their sport. Attempting double-file restarts through more than half a season in 2009, there is also considerations being made to the race cars planned to compete at the Daytona 500 using everything from removing out-of-bounds lines to enlarging restrictor plates to speed up the cars.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Race Engines Come to Live in 2010: 24-Hour of Daytona Testing

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Road Racing

Amidst unseasonably cool Florida temperatures, three days of Grand-American Road Racing cars begin to heat up Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the first major race weekend in North America, the 2010 Rolex 24-Hour of Daytona. With a temperature measurement of 53 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday represented the warmest weather for entire weekend test session, drips near the freezing point combined with precipitation actually created icy conditions that postponed morning testing on Saturday for the Rolex Sports Car Series.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Sports Car

the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes and GT cars took turns around the 3.45 mile road course formulated from the Superspeedway complex. blazing around the track fastest has been the Suntrust-sponsored Dallara Ford wheeled by Max Angelelli. The 2005 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona overall race winning team and driver, the #10 Daytona Prototype clocked a lap of 1 minute, 40.466 seconds. Besides posting the quickest pass around the Daytona International Speedway, Angelelli has shown pace throughout the test weekend leading two of the three days on the time sheets. 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Daytona Prototype series champion GAINSCO Racing Chevrolet driven by Alex Gurney, a Scott Dixon-wheeled Chip Ganassi Racing Riley breaking their new BMW powerplant and the Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford piloted by Michael Valiante (who led the messy Saturday session in driving weather accustomed to Canadians) also showed nearly comparable speed through testing.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Sports Car

In the sampling of Rolex Sports Car GT cars, an Alex Job Racing-owned Porsche GT3 took top speed honours. Driven by 22 year old Austrian Martin Ragginger, the Porsche logged a lap at 1 minute and 49.627 seconds. With the factory-backed Pontiac Racing effort gone with the demise of the GM brand, the rock-steady Porsche squad's main nemesis for 2010 will be a race-hardened group of Mazda RX-8s. With one RX-8 driven and owned by actor Patrick Dempsey, another car campaigned by SpeedSource will offer a season-long fight for the German sports car powerhouse.

Dialing in race cars within weather which barely reached average temperature lows for the Daytona Beach area for the late January event, horsepower was peak but tire grip was at a premium for the sports cars. In spite of this, the sessions endured only minor incidents such as spins and blown engines from select vehicles with all categories of drivers exercising caution.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Sports Car

Serving as a test session for the prestigious Daytona Prototypes and GT class machines of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car series, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge vehicles are also unleashed in preparation for a 200-mile race to roll on the Friday before the day-long headline event. This year, the all-new competition versions of the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger will meet making with a 5.0 liter Ford Mustang Boss 302R resembling a modern revival of the SCCA Trans-Am series (In fact, a #6 Camaro and #15 Mustang showed up with paint schemes iconic with the late 1960s to early 1970s glory days). Split into two classes of competition, the Continental Tire Sport Car Challenge features their faster, more powerful car in the GS (Grand Sport) class and the ST (Sport Tuner) Class for smaller race cars which will include the MAZDASPEED3 and Subaru Impreza WRX STI as newcomers for 2010. With 54 cars total showing up for the Daytona test, the 2010 race for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge guarantees to be a well-contested affair.

Photo Credit: Grand-Am Sports Car

The perennial kick-off to the 2010 racing season in North America, the clock for the Rolex 24-Hour of Daytona will start at January 30th at 3:30 PM Eastern time.

Naughty and Nice: 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With fields consisting of an eclectic pairing of seasoned veterans as well as aspiring rookies, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a long association with rough and tumble race action. The 2009 season was no exception as circuit regulars Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, and Todd Bodine defended their turf against younger Sprint Cup series prospects. A difficult year off the track for the truck series, the tour was affected both a drop in corporate sponsorship and manufacturer support as well some poorly-placed rumours on the demise of the Camping World Truck Series after this year. Under an ominous cloud of economic ruins, the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series assures the future is vibrant for the stock truck circuit.

Looking back at the 2009 calender, XSL Speed Reporter wants to cast light on the memorable season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Nice: Matt Crafton Finds His Groove- Matt Crafton career in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had been a model of perseverance. Since joining the truck series circuit full-time in 2001, Crafton established himself as a consistent competitor by finishing in a top-10 points position in 4 of the 5 previous seasons. However, having run 197 races between 2000 to 2008, Crafton took victory only one time (Charlotte of 2008). In 2009, Matt Crafton, partnered with ThorSport Racing in driving their #88 Chevrolet, was able to gain some sustained attention on his week-to-week performance. Through the truck series' first 9 events, the #88 Chevrolet Silverado finished no worse than 11th place. Despite being winless in 2009, Crafton's consistency allowed to driver to be the perfect championship adversary to Ron Hornaday Jr and the #33 Chevrolet. With 5 total 2nd place finishes on the year, Matt Crafton was unable to catch Hornaday but did secure a career best rounder-up position in the truck series points as well as an very honourable mention to the 2009 season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Naughty: Mad Matt- In the September running of the Copart 200 at Gateway International Raceway, Matt Crafton, who had quietly been capturing championship-contending finishes all season long, made an extreme ruckus in the final stages of the truck series race. With 10 laps to go in 3rd place, the #88 Chevrolet Silverado of Matt Crafton was tempted heavily by a chance at victory. Instead of using precision passing to pass the two trucks, Crafton decided it was 'Hammer Time' for his Menards-sponsored truck taking out Todd Bodine as well as the championship points leader Ron Hornaday in the course of two restarts to take the races lead. Removing Bodine's Toyota and Hornaday's Chevy from contention, the resulting two incidents made casualties of three other race trucks. Inferring “I'm not scared!” after the first incident, NASCAR officials penalized Crafton for has brazenly aggressive driving. Finishing 6th, Matt Crafton lost the chance for a 2nd truck series victory but seemingly skated with a slap on the wrist compared to the damage done at Gateway.

Nice: Randy Moss Motorsports Goes All the Way- In only his second full season as a NASCAR Truck Series team owner, football wide receiver Randy Moss has evidently been a fast-learner to building a competitive NASCAR race team. As Bill Davis Racing was sold off and shut down, Randy Moss Motorsports, who had just begun a manufacturer switch from Chevrolet to Toyota, made homes for rookie driver Tayler Malsam as well as 1995 series champion Mike Skinner (Skinner also got to keep his truck #5). While Malsam fought a good fight with Johnny Sauter for the 2009 rookie of the year award, Mike Skinner scored 3 victories and a 3rd place overall in the overall points standings. Although endlessly praising the efforts of the entire Randy Moss Motorsports #5 team, Skinner had indicated the lack of resources and sponsorship dollars have kept the team from challenging the KHI Chevrolet of Ron Hornaday.

Naughty: Manufacturer Support being pulled by Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge- Just by looking at the full grid of a 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race will tell which auto manufacturer is still committing support. Toyota Tundras outnumbers the combined contingent of American badged vehicles. With Ford and Dodge drawing down their support for truck series operations before the 2009 season, General Motor's bankruptcy affected the Chevrolet Silverados campaigned by Kevin Harvick Inc (KHI) and ThorSport Racing. In the case with KHI, while Ron Hornaday Jr's #33 truck remained strong, those cuts seemingly impacted the team's junior drivers Rick Carmichael and JR Fitzpatrick. For the final races, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman took over driving duties in a move to please victory-seeking truck sponsors but left 2 NASCAR prospects out the door of KHI.

Nice: Hornaday Streaks to the Championship- Winning his 4th NASCAR truck series championship title this year, Ron Hornaday Jr is a long-time competitor in the tour. Between driving trucks for Dale Earnhardt Inc and the Richard Childress Racing team which eventually began KHI, Hornaday holds records in many of the series' categories including most wins, expended to 45 this year. Hornaday's 2009 season run was highlighted by a 5-race winning streak (a record for a NASCAR driver in the top three touring series since 1972 or the establishment of NASCAR's so-called modern era). Winless after his streak-ending race at Nashville Superspeedway on August 1st, Ron Hornaday finished well-enough to maintain a comfortable lead over Matt Crafton clinching the top spot in points after the 2nd to last round in Phoenix.

Naughty: Treatment Shown to Former Series Champions- Ron Hornaday Jr won his 4th championship in 2009 proving that the veterans are still a force to be reckon with in the truck series. However, other past champions were hit hard in 2009 as economics and promotion of younger drivers made the veteran champions' off-track fight more challenging than the fender-beating action of the NASCAR truck series. Starting with three-time truck series champion Jack Sprague. Sprague sat out the entire 2009 schedule after being dropped from the Wyler Racing Toyota after the Homestead finale in 2008. I have yet to determine if Jack Sprague has retired or has been racing elsewhere in this past year.

Entering the 2009 season, Mike Skinner was hustled out of his race team since 2004 when Bill Davis Racing sold his operations to a buyer interested only in supporting race team in NASCAR. Fortunately, Randy Moss Motorsports picked up the veteran and just three weeks before the Daytona International Speedway truck series race. Winning 3 races, Skinner's on-track results proves that the inaugural truck series champion deserves to be respected.

Johnny Benson was also a victim of the Bill Davis Racing team shut down after winning his 2008 NASCAR truck series championship. Enjoying a racing career renaissance which once had Benson driving in the Cup series, 2009 would be a most unkind year. Starting the season inside another Toyota Tundra, the #1 campaigned by Red Horse Racing, Johnny Benson lost his place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when his team was forced to suspend operations due to lack of sponsorship. With his truck ride lost on June 8th, 5 days later Benson was seriously injured in a IMSA Supermodified race held at his home track of Berlin Raceway. He returned later in the year as a commentator for the Speed channel truck series coverage. For 2010, Kyle Busch Motorsports is considering fielding a truck for Benson, pending sponsorship.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Nice: Kyle Busch's Commitment to the Camping World Truck Series- Being the first division that Kyle Busch was able to display has eventual prowess as a NASCAR superstar, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series seems to hold a special place in the heart of the young racer. Only 16 years old at the time he debuted in the series with a Roush Racing Ford F-150, Busch's presence actually led to a NASCAR rule change when a truck race weekend was co-sponsored by a tobacco company. Because tobacco advertising laws, a rule mandating a minimum competitor age of 18 disqualified Kyle Busch's participation in the race. The next season, NASCAR declared a minimum age of 18 throughout the top three touring series.

Despite Busch's early set-backs in the NASCAR Truck Series, he returned to the series in when Billy Ballew Motorsports wanted a driver for their DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc)-supported #51 Chevrolet. Earning the fitting nickname 'Rowdy Busch' on similarities of his truck to the car seen in the movie Days of Thunder, Busch has intensified his raid on the truck series in recent years driving a #51 Toyota. Closing the 2009 NASCAR season with only 69 starts in the truck series, Kyle Busch holds a magnificent 16 victories in the tailgate competition. In 2010, Kyle Busch will become even deeper embedded into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series when he takes on the role of owner through his purchase of Xpress Motorsports in December forming Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Photo Credit: Kyle Busch Motorsports

Naughty: Kyle Busch's Commitment to the Camping World Truck Series- While Kyle Busch's involvement in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is viewed as positive by some, the age-old argument of Cup drivers competing so prolifically in the Truck and Nationwide series has grown in recent years. With corporate sponsors demanding top value even in the lower levels of NASCAR, Cup drivers running on the lower series are often preferred over the entry-level drivers. While Kyle Busch has an intense thirst for racing in his young career, he attracts top sponsorship money and resources to dominate the shorter truck races. While some fans might continue to grumble about the presence of Cup drivers in the ladder series of NASCAR, Kyle Busch's involvement in 2010 will actually aid the younger drivers breaking into NASCAR. Through Kyle Busch Motorsports, Tayler Malsam will run the full season in the Camping World Truck Series will Brian Ickler will share Kyle Busch's truck through 2010.

Nice: A Trio of First Time Truck Winners- Colin Braun, Brian Scott and Timothy Peters have all broken through the established Camping World Truck Series ranks for their first victories on the tour. For Colin Braun and Brian Scott, their 2009 wins may shape up to be their only victories on the schedule in the foreseeable future as both drivers transition to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2010.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Despite Stemming Rumours, US F1 Team is a Go!

As 2010 rolled in, the US F1 Team (helmed by Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor) is busily working to reassure the F1 world that the upstart team has made it past new year's festivities. Co-Team Principal of US F1 Peter Windsor reaffirmed that the gears are certainly in motion for their freshman debut at the Grand Prix of Bahrain.

Windsor, in an interview with as well as through recent updates on the US F1 Team's now upgraded site, has dispelled rumours that his team would not be ready for the start of the F1 season in March. He addresses the allegations of "ludicrous" and offers a detailed account for US F1's short run to prep for the 2010 Formula 1 tour. Having been the colour TV commentator for Formula 1 for the Speed channel, Peter Windsor appears to be expressing his altered view of the media as a Team Principal by quipping in a blog entry "Such are the demands of modern media, however, that every passing minute is another step into history - if you’re not saying something, you’re not doing anything."

With still little information indicated about the team's livery and driver, the USF1 Team has made their first significant move early next month. At the Barber Motorsport Park located in Birmingham, Alabama, the team plans to test their race car for the very first time. As the US F1 car prepared to lap the 2.3 mile road course, the question of who will be driving the competition cars remains. The only Formula 1 team destined for the 2010 grid yet to officially name a driver, Jose Maria Lopez continues to be mentioned for one of the two spots. However, with Lopez's hiring speculated to be based greatly on a multi-million dollar sponsorship the Argentinian is reportedly bringing to US F1, Peter Windsor is quoted in saying in response to this rumour "There is no way that we would sign a driver unless we felt confident that he could do an excellent job." Windsor added that a driver lineup will be announced in short time as the US F1 Team prepares for testing in Europe in February.

As presented earlier in this posting, the US F1 website is now completely operational providing a full accounting to the team's corporate partnerships as well as their relationship with Chad Hurley, the co-founder of YouTube. Hurley role in the US F1 Team appears to revolve around sponsorship as well as enhancing public relations with Formula 1's only North American-based team.

With their first race car built, the Charlotte-based US F1 Team is clearly on the course for joining the 2010 Formula 1 field.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ryan Hunter-Reay Officially Racing For Andretti Autosport for 2010

Photo from IRL/IndyCar

Completing the lineup for IndyCar racing's largest team, the four-car effort of Andretti Autosport declared American open wheel driver Ryan Hunter-Reay the newest teammate to Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti. The 30 year-old Hunter-Reay's place with Andretti Autosport's #37 team had all-but been officially announced since 2009 team driver Hideki Mutoh was released at the conclusion of the season.

Starting his racing career through the Skip Barber Racing School and Barber Dodge Series, Ryan Hunter-Reay first step into the big-time open wheel racing resulted in 2003 when he drove for the short-lived American Spirit Team Johansson in the Champ Car series. Paired by the seasoned past champion Jimmy Vasser, Hunter-Reay ended his rookie campaign with a victory at the Surfers Paradise round in Australia. Also winning a 2004 win at the Milwaukee Mile on the Champ Car tour, his talent has also translated to the IRL IndyCar Series. After Ryan Hunter-Reay locked a full-time ride Rahal Letterman Racing, he took the Indy 500 rookie of the Year honours as well as his first IndyCar series victory at Waltkins Glen.

Competing in the entire 2009 IndyCar series schedule, Ryan Hunter-Reay's year started behind the wheel of the Vision Racing team with a season's best 2nd place run in the maiden race at St Petersburg. However, while the season started well with Vision Racing, the following rounds in the 2009 IndyCar Series failed to net even top-10 results through to Texas Motor Speedway race in June. For the next race in Iowa, Hunter-Reay was granted leave of Vision Racing to replace the injured Vitor Meira at AJ Foyt Racing. A 7th place at the Honda Indy of Toronto in July and the 4th at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course in August were positive improvements but could not alter a 15th place finish in the 2009 IndyCar Series points standings.

With Andretti Autosport (last year known as Andretti-Green Racing) going winless for 2009, the team's entire driver lineup has to break the Penske and Chip Ganassi brigade going into 2010. Ryan Hunter-Reay has a habit of being the unexpected underdog who has allowed has talent to show at just the right time to catch even the most established teams off-guard.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy 2010 to all XSL Speed Reporter readers

Paying full respect to all of XSL Speed Reporter's readers in 2010, I apologize for not updating the site for a week. For Christmas, I received a most unwelcoming gift in the form of the common cold. That, along with a lake effect snowstorm and the usual lack of motorsports news, has left me with little time to provide article within the final days of 2009.

Please allow me to convey my continuing commitment to this website and to providing coverage of this upcoming year's motorsport happenings. Having conducted exclusive interviews with drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, Ron Fellows as well as Anthony Simone, XSL Speed Reporter brought race results and special access to the 2009 Toronto Honda Indy. XSL Speed Reporter also enjoys the right to claim being one of the first media outlets to announce Dale Earnhardt Jr's 7th straight most popular driver award scooping even on the story. 2010 is guaranteed to be another exciting year and I'm determined to enrich this website's readers

Thank you for being a reader and please continue to visit my page for the unique auto racing content.